The doorstep is a jumble of debris: clay, straw, twigs. Some moments pass before I notice three baby house martins among the mess, a couple of days old, dead. Up above, almost nothing is left of the nest under the eaves, where the birds rebuild every year. No sign of the parents.
An almost imperceptible motion - one of the babies is moving. In fact all three are making tiny slow movements, just this side of death. Picking one up, I feel a sharp nip. When I see the beetle, another falls out of the bird's nib. Dozens of them. The babies are being eaten alive.
Taking the birds into the bush, I end their lives as quickly as possible, and bury them. Never have I become hardened to mercy-killing. At age eleven, I found a sparrow filleted by a cat, still breathing. I tried to shoot it with a .22 at point blank, but kept missing. I couldn't sleep that night. The more of this killing you do, the less panic, the smoother the action, but no less heartache.
My three-year-old says, "Birdy house broken. Poor birdies," every day for two months. Daily I explain the martins have moved to the nest under the neighbour's eaves, but he says, "Birdy house broken. Poor birdies."
Norman Darlington is a poet and artist living in Wexford, Ireland. His work in several haikai genres is showcased on his Xaiku website, at www.Xaiku.com.
Footnote 1 Martinmas: the feast of Saint Martin on 11 November, traditionally the day when martins migrate.
This haibun was published
Vol. 1, No. 1/2, 2004